Sophie’s Beer Diary… in search of beer innovation

So, after attending an event aimed at promoting and sharing innovative ideas in beer I decided to keep an eye out for evidence of beer innovation. Here’s a round up of my latest findings – which I’ve scored with a star rating system that works like this:

 = Old ideas dressed up in a new or batty outfit.

 ** = Misguided attempt that hasn’t considered who the customer is or what they need.

*** = It’s about beer but it isn’t all that different to what’s gone before.

**** = Real evidence of creative thinking – could go places.

***** = Wow! This is something new!

Morrisons new beer leaflet

Supermarkets are evil and no one should shop in them… but pretty much all of us do even if it is only now and again as they are a necessary evil of modern life. I even buy beer in them sometimes and while I was doing just that in Morrisons last week I spotted this…

Morrisons beer leaflet front

Could this mean I no longer feel obliged to linger in the beer aisle helping bewildered shoppers pick a beer they – or their partner – will like? Short answer: no. Although it features the word ‘beer’ in large friendly letters on the front cover it appears to have been put together at minimal cost (no photos etc) and is at best too basic and at worst confusing.

Although Morrisons teamed up with Cyclops Beer – a system of describing beer based on look, smell and taste – to produce the leaflet it doesn’t include the Cyclops scale of bitterness v sweetness illustrated by hop or sugarcube ratings. Instead it clumsily lumps beers into categories based on colour, a concept that got Tesco into trouble a couple of years ago, giving just three options: gold, amber and dark. It describes beers that sit in these categories in very general terms, doesn’t go far enough to explain the flavour overlaps between styles and totally misses the fact that a beer’s colour can belie its taste.

Morrisons beer leaflet inside

It’s a shame because Morrisons beer range is actually pretty good so it would have been worth them spending a bit more time and money to produce something genuinely innovative.

Innovation rating: **

Craft Beer Rising

Held at the Old Truman Brewery in London’s Brick Lane last weekend and trailed as a “new generation of beer show” that would “throw off the shackles of a traditional beer gathering” I had high hopes for this even though the only advance information I could get hold of was a list of breweries that would be there rather than a beer list.

A lot of people I know – and some others that I don’t – had a good time at the event. Undoubtedly there were many good beers to be had*. The brews on offer came in cask, keg and bottle with no bar on any particular dispense method – which appeared to be the main difference between CBR and other beer festivals. I’ll not go into detail about this as I have written about the issue before; you have probably read about it before, or you don’t know what I mean – in which case I suggest you remain in blissful ignorance and enjoy whatever type of beer you fancy served however it comes. The event also featured music and street food – just like GBBF does – but with a different selection criteria in terms of which breweries were there.

I’m told the Saturday public session was a much more youthful crowd than the trade/press session and that more women were in evidence but that still doesn’t convince me that this was anything other than a beer festival with a funkier name.

Innovation rating: ***

* My Craft Beer Rising tipples included:

  • Hook Norton’s first ever keg beers, their Double Stout being particularly fine.

  • Curious Brew – a keg lager made with champagne yeast (the bottled version of which I reviewed on my Beertalkers podcast last month).

  • Harviestoun’s tasty lager, Schiehallion.

  • Two Cocks brewery’s English Civil War inspired bitters 1643 Roundhead and 1643 Leveller the latter so bready that it cried out for a Ploughman’s Lunch to go with it.

  • Brains Craft Brewery’s Beardface, a milk stout reminiscent of drinking a bar of almond chocolate.


Pig & Porter – artisan beer and event catering

I’ll be able to tell you more about Pig & Porter once I’ve been to their launch party and had a chance to quaff their beer and taste their food but what I already know of them I like. A pair of old friends have teamed up to create an event catering business that brews its own beer to go with the food they also offer. Specialising in high end hog roasts, barbecue and braai (a South African style of barbecue) but also offering vegetarian options you can book Pig & Porter to cater your wedding, corporate event or party safe in the knowledge that proper beer will also be on the menu. Current brews include Red Spider Rye, Old Smokey Porter and Ashburnham Pale Ale – which are also available at select pubs in Kent and Sussex.

Putting food and brews together in an innovative way is what beer needs right now so thumbs up (and well bowled!) to these two chaps. Here’s hoping their new venture is a huge success.

Innovation rating: *****

Pig and porter pump clip


That’s my thoughts on a selection of potentially innovative beery things but what do you think? Have seen the Morrisons beer leaflet? Did you go to Craft Beer Rising? I’d love to hear your views. Feel free to add your comments. Expect to hear more about Pig & Porter in a future blog…


One comment

  1. Very interesting article on Pig and Porter, taking beer and matching food to a new level. This seems to be a welcome trend for craft producers, which is gathering pace. Last Autumn, Sixpenny Brewery tied up with O’Hagan’s of Chichester to produce the Sixpenny IPA sausage, flavoured with, uh, you guessed it, our IPA. They have proved very popular. Our next ambition is to take space at local events or food fairs, and sell both the Sixpenny beer and the sausages alongside each other. We think it’s a winner, and we’ll let you know how it pans out.

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